For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.
Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we’re going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.
With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.
While I really enjoy Forman’s writing style – indeed, there’s something really compelling about her work – her adult offering doesn’t bring anything new to what I term the ‘tired mommy genre’.
“Would it surprise you to learn that one of the top fantasies for women is a prolonged hospital stay?”
“Not if you think about it. The exhausted, multitasking woman. A trip to the hospital, it’s like the ultimate vacation. A chance to be the nurtured one instead of the nurturer. Guilt free, no less.”
We have Maribeth, an overworked mom of two, who is torn between her multiple responsibilities to her husband, children, work, best friend and society – there simply isn’t enough of her to go around. Her heart-attack is a turning point for MB, as she refers to herself in her new identity, and leaves everything she knows to go set up shop in the middle Pittsburgh, so to speak.
“Would you like me to check your heart or not?” he asked.
“Sure. You can see if I still have one.”
So many of us have wanted to step out of our ordinary lives for a bit, and I can imagine working moms feel the strain more than most, so in a way, it’s a voyeuristic pleasure to witness someone do what we’ve only dreamed about – that utter freedom away from one’s responsibilities.
And there are some charming friendships that Maribeth makes in her new solo mission – a cross-generational companionship with the young neighbours, the endless support she receives from the woman who runs an agency helping to reunite adopted kids with their birth parents, even the borderline romantic relationship she begins with her new cardiologist.
“I’m not in a love triangle,” Maribeth whispered.
“That’s what Katniss said,” Todd replied.
However heartwarming these new endeavours were, the ending the book felt too tidy and yet unresolved for me. Her husband and her finally communicate about the many elephants in the room that have been left ignored for so many years, so things look a little better on the home front, but her strained relationship with her best friend (also boss) is too easily remedied, in my opinion.
I think the author dealt really well with the associated guilt of leaving one’s children, even with the thought that MB needed to fix herself before she could be a mother again. However, as I mentioned previously, there’s nothing new in this book that hasn’t been done a hundred times before. If you’re a fan of Forman’s writing style and take on family issues, then I have a feeling you’ll still enjoy this one.
ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.